Shenandoah National ParkLocate the trailhead.
I found myself in Maine and stopped by my sister's place on the way home. Once she realized I'd be there in time for a weekend outing, she decided I could help her retry backpacking. She wanted to see what Shenandoah had to offer to the weekend backpacker, so looked over the suggested hikes they have put together. The only ones that seem a reasonable 2 day length, at least in the beginner section, were listed as "strenuous". We went for one saying it had the highest waterfall in the park along it. It did turn out to have plenty of down for the first day and up the following day.
We started off from the road onto the Appalachian Trail, so that's a quarter mile of the AT down. We came to a sign post and started down the long hill past waterfalls and cascades and eventually to look for a camping spot.
|It is a lush and green place on the east, as the sister loves to mention. These seemed to turn green as they age, even.|
|Each junction, sometimes for trails no longer maintained or mentioned, was well signed with a post like this and places punched onto the metal band.|
|A bit of the wide, easy to follow trail, full of trees and with plenty of sunlight.|
|Along the side of the trail, flowers and mushrooms and little carpets of moss to decorate the leaf strewn forest floor.|
|Animal life too. This one was hard to photograph because it intensely didn't like the sounds my camera made and would start moving as it turned on or just focused.|
|Some more trail, lined with a rotting log.|
The trail proceeded fairly steeply down the hill soon after it left the AT. A trail came in from the left, with the requisite post. Another left to the right with a post marking it, but this one was becoming overgrown and the post no longer carried its destination. The trail got steeper and some noisy water could be heard. Following the multitude of use trails, we could see a waterfall cascading jaggedly down. It looked like many people have done some minor rock climbing to get to the bottom of this fall.
|Almost entirely shrouded by trees, a bit of water falling over rocks with a hint of verticalness.|
|Suddenly, a bit of the world beyond is visible, and it's getting a bit cloudy.|
|A little more steep down and there's even more view. The valley can be seen opening up onto a larger valley and mountains beyond.|
Back up to the trail, it got steeper and dropped us quickly down many more feet and suddenly allowed us a good view of the rest of the local world. The sunny day was clouding over rather well making it seem like we might actually see those predicted scattered showers. Off to the left where the stream had been, the ground opened up into a massive fissure more common to much younger mountains. On the far wall, we had our big waterfall with only a trickle of water going up it.
|Only part of the falls on the far wall. Much was obscured by the trees above and below.|
|The opening in the side of the mountain, a deep fissure more commonly found in young mountains.|
We stopped for lunch a short, steep section of trail later by some more cliff.
|Another view of the falls from further down the trail. The trickle over the huge cascade is almost completely obscured by the giant tree, though.|
|Flowering trees on down the cliff. Some in red, smaller ones in white beyond.|
|Lots of raspberry flowers promised fruit coming soon. Some were already fruiting. Although this is probably a rose.|
The trail took off almost level along the side away from the massive fissure in the rock, then got into some switchbacks climbing further down and into a valley. As the trail was thinking of leveling out, finally being safe, my sister must have gotten just a little jaunty and took a spill. We settled on a rock in the valley at the bottom to tend to it while a curious sound started up above. No water was making it to us, but it was clearly raining somewhere up in the canopy.
|The protective canopy of interlocking leaves. I loved the way the leaves get darker as there are more above, allowing the outlines of far more leaves to be seen.|
We continued along a wooded and much flatter section with vegetation encroaching on the trail. From time to time, a raindrop got through to us above. Everything was quite green.
|A flower along the way with a pollinator.|
|A piece of the circle of life.|
|A salamander! Or a newt. This one was near a dry crossing, about as far from the water as the trail got in that section.|
|A yellow flower along the side of the trail.|
The trail came to another intersection and a lovely bunch of swimming holes to the side. They were in use in spite of the water from the sky, which had dried up by then. They'd come from the spur that goes to the end of a road just outside of the park.
Soon after this it was time to look for camp spots. They were not nearly so easy to find as they are in the Sierras. The first section of trail along which we were to camp offered short cliffsides, so was extremely unpromising. It opened up a little and we investigated and discarded a few sites. Finally the valley opened up a lot and we found an area with multiple possible sites. We selected a spot that had actually gotten wet from the rain since it sported the fewest rocks to help with sleeping and set up camp and got some water from the stream a stone's throw away.
The stove was a canister, but it turned out not that canister. We scratched our heads and tried to make it fit, but it just wouldn't go. We puzzled over the German instructions, but they didn't offer any help. We poured water over the pasta and declared it should be ready in an hour. With stirring, it was. While waiting, I sketched a bit of our protective canopy. I found a bug on my shirt... is that eight legs? You're no spider. Tick! Ew ew ew. That one died, but there turned out to be many more. Further on, there were less annoying bugs evident as the fireflies flashed among the trees. Light rain started up again, we stirred in the cheese as the pasta was indeed done, then hung up the smellies and arranged the camp with packs under a poncho and retired for the night.
|My sketch of the tent out in the trees.|
day 2 >
©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 9 July 2011